Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What turned you into a reader?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the books I read as a kid that turned me on to reading. I don't know why, but I've just been considering that. When I was at new-reader age, between the ages of 5 and 8, we didn't have a whole lot of money. My mom had just gone through a divorce, so she was paying the mortgage and all of the other bills for us by herself, often working three jobs to do it. Needless to say, the library figured greatly in our lives as a source for new books. The children's library in my hometown was really cool - it was in this old brick house, with all of the different rooms for different kinds of books, and off of the little kids' book room, there was an old bathroom with the door off the hinges that still had the original claw foot bathtub in it. They put all kinds of cushions and stuffed animals in it and we kids would climb in it to read or play while we were there.

As a kid, of course I started out with the usual great kid's books. I loved all of the Berenstein Bears books, and Dr. Seuss, etc. I started my love of mysteries early with Encyclopedia Brown, and as I got older, I checked out pretty much every Bobbsey Twins book in the library. I also read Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys approximately twice a year until I was at least 14. I still own every book L.M. Montgomery ever published and have read them all at least twice, and my copy of the entire Anne of Green Gables series is so well-read that pages are starting to fall out.

I got this great hard-cover set of classic children's books (that I still have) that I read and loved that included Black Beauty, Treasure Island, Heidi, Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, and Tom Sawyer - I was particularly taken with the last three. I fell in love with Pollyanna, with Pippi Longstocking, with Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins. A Wrinkle in Time introduced me to awesome science fiction. I discovered my love of fantasy and mythology when I went into my elementary school library and picked up the biggest book I could find, The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea. And my mom bought me this children's series of somewhat simplified classic literature, so I realized pretty early that even the "boring classics" have great characters and stories.

So how about you guys? What books turned you into lifelong bookworms?


  1. I replied to this in detail over at my blog, but the short answer is that there were a couple things, not counting parental influences. I loved listening to books on records and tapes, and those occupied me for much longer than any toy did. I think I grew up associating books with pleasure because of this. The chapter books that really hooked me were the Trixie Belden series. I loved those. Weirdly, I don't tend to enjoy mysteries as an adult.

  2. We were pretty broke when I was a kid too, but for some reason, I have always disliked libraries. I feel the same way about libraries as I do about visiting the dentist, or some other dreaded-but-never-as-bad-as-I-think-it-will-be chore. Fortunately, we somehow always had a supply of books in our house. One of these days, I'll have to ask where they came from, but at the time all I cared about was that they were there.

    Big influences to me having become a voracious reader? I taught myself to read using Dr Seuss when I was in kindergarten, could've knocked my mother over with a feather the first time she heard me reading out loud to myself alone in my room. Someone gave us a bunch of Bobbsey Twins books, and the entire "Happy Hollisters" series, which I inhaled. I read the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series over and over. And later, Stephen King. :)

  3. Wow, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who dislikes libraries. That's...unusual. Did you have a bad library experience as a child or something? At least you still managed to get your hands on a lot of books - sounds like a lot of the same books I loved as a kid, which isn't so surprising I guess.

    Carrie - You probably have picked up that I am still a huge mystery fan. There are all sorts, and I like the cheesy mass market kind as well as the really good ones. I bet I could dig up some you'd really like. Try Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, or Garnethill by Denise Mina. Both are just excellent books in their own right, and they just happen to also be mysteries :)

  4. Out of curiosity, what don't you like about libraries? Did you have a bad experience with bad librarians, or smelly books, or weird patrons? I'm curious to know! :)

    Jen, I might have to try a recommendation at some point. Of course, it's not easy for me to get motivated to try something I'm not excited about when I always have a huge pile of stuff I am excited about ready.

  5. I was a spontaneous reader starting at the age of two. By kindergarten I was driving my teacher insane by picking up the books on her desk and reading to the class. One was a romance novel that got me into a lot of trouble when I very loftily told my classmates where babies really came from. Boy did I get it! I've never lost the love of reading though I have gone through periods where I've wandered away from being active. My mom reads romance, my dad only reads "serious" stuff. Meaning he'll only pick up Hemmingway. We had a big fracas about it in junior high when I told him I preferred Steinbeck to Hemmingway. You'd think I stabbed the man instead of having an independant thought.

  6. Sorry for the belated response, I hadn't checked back in a while! I thought being a "follower" would automatically notify me of new posts, etc... but I guess it probably just adds stuff to my iGoogle page, which I never check.

    I've never given a whole lot of thought to my library aversion, but here's my answer off the top of my head. I don't recall ever having had a negative library experience, but then again, all my childhood memories are pretty spotty. My earliest library associations are of being sent to the school library in elementary school. I was intimidated by the oppressive atmosphere, and the librarian seemed like an unfriendly authoritarian type. I always had problems with returning books on time, because I dreaded going back. In middle school, I started bringing books from home and stashing them in my locker, and when I was sent to the library, I'd go get one of those instead. ;)

    Bookstores, on the other hand... I could *live* in a bookstore. And it's not an aversion to old books (smells and all) either, because I buy 90% of my books from yard sales, antique stores, and flea markets, or get them from book exchanges.

    I do remember reading The Library Policeman (Stephen King, Four Past Midnight) when I was about 15 and thinking to myself "well at least I'm not the only one who dreads going to the library..."